Direct Metal Laser Sintering

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) is an industrial 3D printing process that builds fully functional, end-use metal parts. A laser system draws onto a surface of atomized metal powder to weld the powder into a solid. After each layer, a blade adds a fresh layer of powder and repeats the process until a final part is formed.

DMLS uses a variety of alloys, allowing prototypes to be functional hardware made out of the same material as production components. Since the components are built layer by layer, it is possible to design organic geometries, internal features and challenging passages that could not be cast or otherwise machined. DMLS produces strong, durable metal parts that work well as both functional prototypes or end-use production parts.
1 to 50+ parts
Shipped in 1 to 7 days
Parts start at $95



When a 3D CAD model of a part has been uploaded and subsequently approved by a customer, their confirmed order is moved into a scheduling and build queue. All of the part files are downloaded and the geometry is analyzed for any potential manufacturability issues. If any issues do arise, a dialog between a Proto Labs representative and the customer will take place to resolve the problem before the actual build begins.

Build preparation

As the direct metal laser sintering build prep begins, parts are digitally positioned onto the build platform and the necessary support structures are strategically placed onto the part. Automated supports are initially placed followed by supplemental supports done manually to provide a comprehensive final support system. The build prep features process elements similar to that of both stereolithography and selective laser sintering, requiring a support system (like SL) even though parts are sintered into a bed of powder (like SLS). The rapid melting of each metal layer can create residual stresses in the part during DMLS. Supports that hold parts in place are required to prevent any warping that would occur from these stresses as each layer cools.

Build prep technicians then go through a layer-by-layer review of the build to ensure that all of the features are adequately supported for a successful build. Once the review is complete, the technicians will digitally create the required amount of part copies needed for a particular order before it is ultimately sent to the DMLS machine.
Build preparation
Fineline DMLS build preparation

Part production

The machine begins sintering each layer — first the support structures to the base plate, then the part itself — with a laser aimed onto a bed of metallic powder. After a cross-section layer of powder is micro-welded, the build platform shifts down and a rubber recoater blade moves across the platform to deposit the next layer of powder into an inert build chamber. The process is repeated layer by layer until the build is complete.

Post build

When the build finishes, an initial brushing is manually administered to parts to remove a majority of loose powder. Depending on which metal the parts were built in, they’ll receive the appropriate heat-treat cycle while still fixtured in the support systems to relieve any stresses. Parts are then removed from the platform before the support structures are ultimately removed from the parts with a variety of hand tools (files, dremels, etc.). Surfaces where the support structures were touching are also cleaned up by hand, proceeded by any bead blasting and deburring that is needed to finish the parts. Metals parts built in DMLS are nearly 100 percent dense.
Post build
Fineline DMLS post build
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